Welcome to the Expert Series
The NowSkills Expert Series is a live virtual webinar series that explores a series of hot topics within the digital & business world, and we have a specialist line up of experts that are set to join us.
Hosted by our very own specialist tutor team, each new expert we welcome to the stage, comes with affirmed professional pedigree, ready to provide powerful real-world insight that they have gained from first-hand experience.
The series will cover a range of topics and isn’t limited to one profession but is instead applicable to all of those inside the digital and IT workspace.
Members of our audience will also be granted the exclusive opportunity to ask questions to our guest at the end of each event, giving you the opportunity to gain advice, or specific knowledge that you may never get the chance to access again.
Each event is free to attend and is conducted live via Zoom, and if you are a NowSkills apprentice it will contribute towards your 20% off-the-job learning. If you aren’t but still would like to attend, don’t worry, these events aren’t exclusive to those enrolled with us but instead are open to all those interested.
The next installment is on the 26th May 2022, and this time round we will look at ‘The future of Data & Business’.
We welcome John K. Thompson, an international technology executive with over 30 years of experience in the business intelligence and advanced analytics fields. John is co-author of the best selling book ‘Analytics: How to win with intelligence’, which debuted on Amazon as the #1 new book in Analytics in 2017.
You can find out more about our next event and all others we have already confirmed using the link below. Here you will be able to reserve your place on any of the webinars… We also encourage you to follow our social channels and register with us so that you are notified when a new event is announced.
First Contact – Whitefield, Manchester
First Contact is a family-run IT support provider in Manchester offering a full range of IT and related services to look after all technical problems an organisation of any size may face. Services include tech support/helpdesk, web design, cctv and cabling. As a small, specialist organisation, every team member has to fit well and apprentices have played a big part in the recruitment drive over the years, with many apprentices coming in as 18-19-year-olds and leaving many years later, having played an integral role in the ongoing growth, success and reputation of the business.
Apprentices with NowSkills
First Contact currently has seven employees, two of whom have completed apprenticeships and continue to progress within the company, alongside on government-funded digital apprentice-in-training who plays a hands-on part of its specialist workforce.
The company has also had three previous members of staff who started with them as apprentices and stayed for between 3-15 years, constantly gaining experience and adding value to the team.
The company is a firm believer in the importance of apprentices and the huge benefits of apprenticeships to both businesses and individuals. Director Jeremy Ross says ‘Many young people don’t want to go to university; they want to start a career as soon as possible. Upon completion of an apprenticeship at the age of 21, young people have a big advantage over university leavers as they have two-to-three years of work experience and training under-their-belts, and are probably already in a full-time job. Not only this, but they will have gained valuable general working life experience, developed positive attitudes to work and grown in confidence.
‘We’ve worked with NowSkills for a few years now, and the quality of the individuals presented to us have been outstanding. Not only this, but the candidates are generally interested in everything digital, IT and tech, and have the drive and thirst for learning required by our small but hands-on organisation. Having worked with previous apprenticeship providers and candidates not quite working out, we turned to a specialist digital and IT apprenticeship provider who could listen to and understand our needs but also ensured that the apprentices have the right attitudes and interpersonal skills to integrate successfully into the company to last the duration.
Previous apprenticeship training providers have been lacking in the specialist digital knowledge, skills and qualities required to place successful apprentices at First Contact. One of the main issues with previous partners was the lack of ongoing support and contact, which is key to service-led businesses such as First Contact. First Contact has been impressed by the level of support from the NowSkills team of on-the-ball tutors and says that contact is frequent and of high quality.
The benefits of working with a specialist
NowSkills have been on board with First Contact for the last three-to-four years as their preferred apprenticeship provider. NowSkills’ approach to sourcing and screening potential candidates is second-to-none. First Contact values the manner in which NowSkills assesses potential apprentices, putting them through-their-paces much like a recruitment agency and finding talented candidates who will be a good fit, resulting in many successful apprentices who have gone onto full time employment with First Contact, growing and expanding as people.
Alongside their ongoing NowSkills training and mentoring, apprentices are heavily invested in and nurtured by First Contact, and this, coupled with ongoing practical on the job training across many skills and roles results in successful apprentices who stay with the company as happy, productive employees.
First class digital & IT courses
First Contact’s apprentices are enrolled on infrastructure or digital marketing programmes with NowSkills and depending on the digital apprentice, they receive 1:1 tutoring and live classroom and on-demand resources covering: LANs, WANs, TCP/IP, Windows Servers, hardware, software, M365, Azure, AWS, Virtualisation, Cyber threats, GoogleAds, Email marketing, Competitor research, Content marketing, Social media, Design tools and AI integration.
First Contact currently has several NowSkills apprentices about to complete their courses in digital marketing and infrastructure engineering.
In addition to this, they have a number of people in full time employment in roles who have progressed through the company. One NowSkills apprentice came in as a digital marketer and along the way showed a flair for back end technology. Once he’d completed his digital marketer apprenticeship, he was then trained as an infrastructure engineer and given a full time position as First Contact saw the value in him as an employee.
FirstContact’s longest serving member of staff (15 years) first joined as an apprentice and only leaving in 2021, which shows how successful their apprentices are.
First Contact apprentice facts:
Name & Role:
Ben – Digital Marketer, then a IT engineer and has been with FIrst Contact for 3 years. Originally a NowSkills digital marketing apprentice, Ben completed his apprenticeship and was then employed and trained as an infrastructure engineer being promoted within the businesses as his experience grew and training new apprentice James
Name & Role:
James – Digital Marketer, been with First Contact for 15 months and his day to day duties include: Manages websites, content updating, website design, technical support, back-end support.
First Contact says:
‘We are huge advocates of young people choosing apprenticeships to start their digital & IT career. We are committed to attracting local apprentices with a passion and interest in all things tech/digital and IT as our team members are hands-on, highly skilled people and good all-rounders with many strings to their bows. As a small service business, you have to be knowledgeable in so many areas and you have to be patient and understanding with clients at businesses of all sizes so we are delighted that we are able to seek out young people with the same enthusiasm and ethos of the wider team via our symbiotic relationship with NowSkills. People who stay with us for many years.’
‘First Contact is a prime example of a partner employer who shares our own vision of finding the best digital apprentices to meet their demand for skills and recruitment with the skills, knowledge and behaviours to embark on meaningful rewarding careers. First Contact truly embraces its apprentices and helps nurture them into very successful employees who grow and evolve. Working with a close team in this environment, apprentices really do get a first hand chance to be involved in most aspects of the business and the services it provides from the word go, and this is why the screening and selection process is paramount so that we can present suitable candidates to last the duration. First Contact is a great example of a partner who engages closely with our courses, programmes and support team so that we can grow and nurture the apprentice to be successful and ensure that they are excelling in their roles to benefit of the business.
Organisations urged to boost their cyber-security
Organisations in the UK have been urged by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to boost their cyber security resilience following recent events in Ukraine.
The UK government has highlighted similar patterns in the malicious cyber attacks on Ukraine as those commonly deployed by Russia in previous situations.
These include the well renown ‘NotPeyta’ attacks in 2017 and the cyberattacks on Georgia, which have both been accredited to the Russian government.
There is no clear, immediate threat to the UK however, the newly revised guidance advises you follow their new steps to avoid becoming victim to any of their potential attacks.
You can view all the latest advice and guidance here.
Along with the latest guidance was an official statement released by NSCS Director of Operations, Paul Winchester, which you can read in full here.
Included within the guidance is the fact that if you do fall victim to any attacks, then you should report this immediately to the NCSC’s 24-hour incident management team.
The Lancashire apprenticeship awards 2022
We are proud to announce that we are the official sponsors of the inaugural ‘Health & Public service Apprentice of the year’ award at the Lancashire Apprenticeship awards 2022.
The awards ceremony celebrates and recognises the hardworking individuals and organisations involved in apprenticeships that continue to shape our future. Winning an award resembles a massive achievement for not only the individual apprentice but also the larger organisation that they work for, whose continued support has facilitated the success in recognition.
To enter for the 2022 ‘Health & Public service Apprentice of the year’ award, apprentices must work either within the health or public service sectors and must have been enrolled on their apprenticeship scheme before June 2021. Entries can be completed by either the apprentice or by their employers.
The award recognises the outstanding achievements the individual has made through; quotes from clients and staff, statistics, performance reviews, and the contribution that the individual has made throughout their apprenticeship that shows their commitment and attitude to the role.
An independent panel of judges will review all the Lancashire Apprenticeship award entries, which comprises industry experts and representatives from Lancashire news brands and esteemed sponsors.
We now look forward to the awards event that will take place on 31st March at Mill Farm sports village, and we wish all entrants the best of luck.
Receive a £3,000 incentive payment
Until the 30th of September 2021, employers can now receive a £3,000 incentive for hiring an apprentice. This is regardless of the apprentice’s age. This is in addition to the £1,000 payment for hiring apprentices between 16-18. Employers could receive £4,000.
Benefits of hiring an apprentice
Apprenticeships have a positive impact on society, the economy and organisations. Employers can use apprenticeships to recruit a new apprentice or upskill a current employee. The benefits of hiring an apprentice include:
- Increasing business productivity
- Developing important skills and overcoming key skills shortages
- Improving the quality of your service or product
- Growing your workforce
- Adapting the training to suit business needs
Apprenticeships play an integral part in the developing digital landscape
There is a growing need to promote apprenticeships as an alternative career route for young people and for employers to understand the benefits apprentices can bring to their organisations. Removing the stigma attached to apprenticeships and promoting their significance will help encourage more apprenticeship starts.
The Skills Bill, which is currently going through parliament defines proposals to develop the current post-16 skills systems. Apprenticeships are integral in these reforms to the skills system.
Apprenticeships need to provide tangible value to apprentices and their employers and deliver high-quality training. Ofqual aims to ensure that apprenticeships are respected by employers, apprentices and their parents.
Apprentices felt the negative effects of lockdown
Due to the recent lockdowns, many apprentices faced the negative effects of being unable to work onsite or in the office to gain practical experience. In fact, it was reported by TES that due to lockdown, the number of individuals starting an apprenticeship halved.
Apprentices are making a comeback
Despite the hardships, the 2020-2021 Annual Report by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education recorded that 50,000 learners were able to complete their apprenticeships. This is largely thanks to the implementation of online teaching, virtual learning and remote working. Apprenticeships play a crucial role in ensuring organisations have a workforce with the correct skills to compete in a competitive landscape.
A blended solution that makes an impact
The COVID-19 pandemic forced training providers to rethink their apprenticeship training delivery and quickly move as much of their training online as possible. However, as lockdowns were released and people learn to live in a post-pandemic world, the way apprenticeship training is delivered has changed forever. Everyone is more comfortable with online conferencing and the use of this technology has provided opportunities for apprentices, employers and training providers.
At NowSkills, we’ve modified our training delivery to include technology-enabled remote learning, however, we’re still retaining our commitment to face to face training.
We are thrilled with the recent launch of our website
We are delighted to announce the recent launch of our brand-new website. This website was designed completely in house by our very own digital marketing apprentices. Our challenging and rewarding apprenticeships are designed to give apprentices the behaviours, skills, knowledge and attitudes to begin a meaningful and rewarding career.
What our apprentices learnt in their own words:
“I’ve enjoyed the process of creating the website from scratch and I am proud of this achievement. It was a challenging yet rewarding experience and I have developed many new skills throughout the website’s development. These include creativity, problem-solving and teamwork. Despite having no previous experience in web design, with the support of my colleagues and line manager, I was able to overcome the obstacles that I faced. Ultimately, it has been a great experience, which has instilled me with the knowledge and skills that I can utilise throughout my career.” Isobel, Level 3 Digital Marketer
I have learnt in-depth how important web design, user experience and SEO is for a company site. And have really enjoyed building the website from the ground up. I have enjoyed learning new things like HTML and CSS of which I previously had no experience. I have also learnt the importance of communication and teamwork in a real working environment and developed my problem-solving skills greatly. Lastly, I have enjoyed seeing the development and structure of the site change as time has progressed and it feels amazing to look back on how far we have come from the early stages of development!” Danny, Level 3 Digital Marketer
Who should apply for the Digital Marketer apprenticeship?
Becoming a digital marketer apprentice is ideal for anyone who enjoys designing, creating campaigns and using technology. If you like being creative, working as part of a team and utilising digital tools, then the Digital Marketer apprenticeship could be for you. The roles apprentices should expect to be applying for after their 12-15 month Digital Marketer apprenticeship are Digital Marketing Assistant, Digital Marketing Executive, Email Marketing Assistant, SEO Executive and many others.
Ofsted Full Inspection
We had previously received two Ofsted Monitoring Visits (Dec 18 & March 21) and were judged Reasonable Progress on each occasion.
The (Jun 21) full inspection was much more in-depth than the previous Monitoring Visits and during this 4-day inspection, two of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) and 3 Ofsted Inspectors (OI) visited our premises, our employers, and their apprentices.
These deep-dive inspection visits enabled the Ofsted team to reach secure judgments on the following inspection areas:
The quality of education
Behaviour and attitudes
You can read the full inspection report here
The NowSkills team were delighted with our Good rating, especially as the Ofsted inspection came following a difficult year for the country, where COVID-19 made apprenticeship delivery more challenging.
We would like to offer our sincere thanks to each of our employer partners and our apprentices in enabling NowSkills to deliver high-quality digital apprenticeships, now validated by the most esteemed educational authority in the country.
Thank you for your support. We look forward to working with you for many years to come.
Incentive payment for apprentices who joined organisations from 1 April 2021
- Employers with apprentices who have an employment start date between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021 and who also have a practical period (training) start date between 1 April 2021 and 30 November 2021 may be eligible for an incentive payment
- Employers will receive £3,000 for new apprentices of any age
- Employers must apply for these apprentices by the end of 30 November 2021
- Employers can visit this guidance page for more details
In addition to existing apprentices, any new hires employers make between now and 30 September 2021 may also be eligible for an incentive payment.
How to apply
Reminder: steps to take before you apply
There are 6 steps you need to have completed before applying for an incentive payment for hiring a new apprentice:
- You need to have registered an account on the apprenticeship service
- If you do not pay the apprenticeship levy, you need to have reserved funds in your apprenticeship service account
- You need to have recruited an apprentice
- You need to have added your apprentice to your apprenticeship service account
- You need to have agreed on a start date for apprenticeship training, to begin with their training provider
- You need to have accepted the latest version of the ESFA employer agreement
Increasing demand for workers and the skills shortage
A recent report suggests that there is a growing skills shortage and not enough workers to fill the rising number of job vacancies.
The easing of covid restrictions has triggered the increasing demand for workers. This demand is the fastest it has risen in May for over 23 years, according to a KPMG survey.
The survey also shares details on how the skills and labour shortages that already existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, are currently the most significant issue the jobs market faces. The demand for individuals to fill IT and computing roles has intensified in recent months.
The pandemic has brought the skills shortage into sharp focus
Kate Shoesmith, deputy chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation states:
‘’With demand spiking, the skills and labour shortages that already existed in the UK have come into sharper focus – and Covid has only made them worse’’
The government and organisations are now being called to help tackle and overcome these skills shortages.
IT apprenticeships provide a solution to the skills shortage
Technology will play a crucial role in encouraging post-pandemic economic recovery. Therefore, to keep up with the digital acceleration, young people must be made aware of the importance of IT and future career opportunities in the digital sector. IT apprenticeships offer a way to combat this worrying trend. To help ensure adults can gain new skills and qualifications, beginning on the 1st April 2021 until the 30th of September 2021, employers can receive a £3,000 incentive for hiring an apprentice. This is regardless of the apprentice’s age. This is in addition to the £1,000 payment for hiring apprentices between 16-18. Employers could receive £4,000.
The Government is set to introduce a £7 million fund from July 2021 to help employers in England set up and expand portable apprenticeships. This will help support apprentices working on multiple projects with different employers.
A new Help to Grow scheme will be introduced to offer a digital and management boost to up to 130,000 companies across the UK.